On Saturday afternoon at the Palestra, a familiar voice shouted out from the sidelines as wrestlers went to work on the mats.
“Work hard!” Penn wrestling coach Alex Tirapelle yelled. “Finish on top!”
And that’s exactly what the Red and Blue did. Matched up against both Brown and Harvard in consecutive meets over the weekend, the Quakers took both bouts of the home doubleheader, defeating the Bears, 29-6, and the Crimson, 26-13.
With the dual meet sweep, Penn notched its third consecutive win since the Jan. 24 loss to Cornell and fourth victory in five matchups.
“It’s great to beat our Ivy League opponents at any time,” Tirapelle said. “We have our Ivy League rivals, and we want to beat them every time out.
“We’re competing with them for kids, trying to sell our program.”
Penn’s 157-pound class had an especially strong showing on Saturday. Junior Brooks Martino defeated Brown sophomore and 20th-ranked Justin Staudenmayer in a hotly contested match. Martino took the 2-1 match in overtime for the upset victory.
“I worked with all the coaches this week,” Martino said of his key to the win. “We sat down with some film. I wrestled a disciplined match, and at the same time I’ve been getting better at concentrating on myself in practice.”
Freshman 157-pounder May Bethea took the floor for the Quakers against Harvard and put up an especially strong showing against Crimson sophomore Colby Knight. Bethea executed two takedowns in the first period and never looked back, dominating the match for a 14-4 win.
Bethea’s brother, senior 197-pounder Canaan, also performed well on the day. He beat Brown senior Sebastien Levin, 9-4, to add three points to Penn’s overall lead before facing his true test against Harvard senior James Fox.
Bethea fought hard against the weight class’ 14th-ranked wrestler. However, after being called for a questionable stalling violation in the rideout round, Bethea lost on a takedown in the second sudden victory round.
“It is what it is,” Tirapelle said. “I was disappointed for Canaan — I wasn’t disappointed in him. I thought he did enough to win the match, but that’s not always the way it goes.”
The Red and Blue featured different wrestlers in each match for the 149-pound class, but both picked up wins for the team.
After No. 10 CJ Cobb pulled out a 4-2 win against Brown sophomore Steve Galiardo, senior Andrew Lenzi took the mat against Harvard to fill in for Cobb, who had to miss the nightcap.
Lenzi, who usually wrestles in the 141-pound weight class, was working at a disadvantage. The last-minute replacement was not even the maximum 149 pounds at weigh-in. Despite the obstacles, the veteran took down Crimson junior Nick Stager for a fall at 1:22 to put Penn up 16-3.
“That was my favorite moment of the day,” Tirapelle noted after the match. “Andrew Lenzi stepped in and took care of business, and that’s what we need from our guys who aren’t everyday starters.
“He was definitely the shining star [and had] the brightest match of this dual, in my opinion.”
Senior No. 5 Lorenzo Thomas continued his usual display of dominance, besting an old rival — Brown senior Ophir Bernstein — by a resounding 11-2 score before easily taking his match against Harvard’s Josh Popple, 12-1.
“It felt good,” Thomas said of his win against Bernstein. “I’ve wrestled him — how many times in the past two years? It feels good to get a dominating win and set the pace for the rest of the year.”
Also performing well were sophomore 133-pounder No. 19 Caleb Richardson and senior 174-pounder Brad Wukie, both of whom won their matches in key grapples for the Quakers.
Penn’s two victories stretch their undefeated streak in home duals to four. While the Quakers might not be first in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, Saturday’s wins put the Quakers in promising position to close the year out strong.
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